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Local heroes to be honored at Spirit of Courage Award celebration

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

Two local heroes from the TIMES NEWS area are among those who will be honored for their acts of heroism during the fourth annual Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Award Celebration at Lehigh Valley Hospital Muhlenberg, Bethlehem.

The program was started locally by Valley Preferred, Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Burn Prevention Foundation, to recognize persons who go "above and beyond" to perform a heroic act to save someone from burn deaths or injury.

To be honored for their help are two officers of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Scott Christman and David Roberts. The two men were stocking fish in the Pohopoco Creek in Franklin Township when a propane truck exploded 200 yards away at a dog kennel.

As flames shot 70 feet above the trees, Roberts called the communications center to dispatch a fire truck to the scene. They found the truck and kennel fully ablaze. They also found the truck driver, Tim Kleinhagen, whose clothes were aflame, behind a locked chain-link fence. Christman and Roberts helped the injured driver to safety. Kleinhagen was flown by MedEvac helicopter to the Lehigh Valley Hospital Burn Center and is recovering at home.

Also to be recognized that night with the Phoenix Award is John Capanna of Albrightsville.

When Capanna was 20 years old, he sustained burns over 90 percent of his body in an oil refinery explosion. But he survived, enduring three months in the hospital, more than 70 surgeries and years of physical, occupational and speech therapy. His travails, though, didn't end there.

In the course of his recovery, Capanna became addicted to pain medications and narcotics. Overcoming this was as grueling as surviving his burns.

Today, Capanna has turned tragedy into triumph. He helps other survivors at support groups, is a volunteer for SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) and is trained to become a peer support counselor. So impressive is his journey, Capanna is scheduled to be a speaker at the World Burn Congress in New York City in September.

Valley Preferred, a partnership of doctors and hospitals, is sponsoring the program to raise public awareness regarding burn safety and prevention.

"We're proud to do our part to honor those who have done an outstanding job of preserving health through acts of heroism and promoting fire safety and burn prevention education," said Valley Preferred executive director and CEO Gregory Kile.

"The Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Awards provides a unique opportunity to honor those who put themselves in harms way to save lives and prevent burns," said Dan Dillard, director of the Burn Prevention Foundation. "It's our way of thanking them for the sometimes thankless job that they do."

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes three hospital facilities two in Allentown and one in Bethlehem; eight health centers caring for communities in four counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region; pharmacy, imaging and lab services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred.

Specialty care includes trauma care at the region's busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Primary Stroke Center.

Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by US News & World Report for 14 consecutive years as one of America's Best Hospitals and is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing. Additional information is available at and by accessing and

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